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Equal Opportunity Spotlight: PTSD, National Disability Employment Awareness Month

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Robert Cyr
  • 104th Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity Office

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is held each October to commemorate the multiple and varied contributions of individuals with disabilities to the United States’ economy and workplaces.

In the role service members play as the defenders of the Constitution and the freedoms United States citizens all share, service members experience a higher risk of one such disability, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the potential experiences and hazards they may be exposed to. In order to minimize the long-term effects that PTSD may present, it is a good idea to be aware of the symptoms that may develop over time, and the possible resources and treatments that are available. Knowing the warning signs can help one know when to ask for help, or when to reach out to assist a fellow wingman.

PTSD, as defined by the Social Security Administration, is an anxiety disorder triggered by a traumatic event – being classified as a disability when symptoms become severe enough that work or other daily life functions are affected.  A person can develop PTSD if they witness or experience an event or series of events that causes intense fear, shock, horror, or helplessness. At some point afterwards, usually within a month but sometimes taking years, the individual may begin to experience symptoms that are out of the ordinary.

These symptoms may include intrusive memories or flashbacks, vivid and distressing dreams or inability to sleep, avoiding certain places or people, difficulty concentrating, or extreme sudden or persistent anger, depression, numbness and/or hopelessness. If one experiences these symptoms or sees them in a fellow service member, it is imperative to reach out for help as soon as possible. Early intervention can help mitigate or minimize long term effects.

When reaching out for help, there are multiple resources available.

As military members, please know that the unit chaplain is always available. Bases and Wings often have a mental health professional available who is specially trained for circumstances unique to service members. In our own 104th Fighter Wing Wellness Center, Michelle Tarca, our Director of Psychological Health, can be reached at (413) 68-9151 ext. 698-1536 or (413) 572-1636. Outside of the 104FW, one of the best resources out there for military members is Military One Source. This resource can act as a one-stop-shop for whatever a service member may need or may be experiencing to include: counseling, financial and legal guidance, benefits information, and much more. They can be found online at militaryonesource.mil or one can call them at 1-800-342-9647. Everyone who picks up the phone at this number is a trained counselor who can listen and help one find what one needs. One can also reach out to their own Primary are Provider who may be able to recommend and refer them to various mental health professionals in their area. Finally, if you or someone you know is in crisis, help is always available at 988, the new suicide hotline number, which operates similarly to 911.

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of the above PTSD symptoms, please do not hesitate to ask for help to the variety of resources at your disposal.  Early intervention may be the key to mitigating the long term effects of PTSD, or potentially saving someone’s life.